A scout's eye view of 49ers draft, Part II

What kind of value did the 49ers get from just six picks in the draft? How good a guard can Chilo Rachal become? What about San Francisco's second-day picks, and what kind of starters and contributors can the 49ers expect from this draft overall? In Part II, Russ Lande, draft expert for the Sporting News, drops by to speak exclusively with SFI and give his breakdown of the 49ers' 2008 draft class.

SFI: Russ, in summary, what kind of value did you feel the 49ers got with their six picks?
Russ Lande:
Coming out of this draft, you can legitimately say they feel they have five guys that have a good chance to be starters someday. That's pretty darn good for six picks. They found guys after the fourth round that could have good value and could become starters. Reggie Smith has a chance to be a really good starting player and getting him in the third round, I just think that's a really good pick. And getting Cody Wallace, he has a chance to be a starter. That's a good pick in the fourth round. And Larry Grant in the seventh. That kid's a good player. He could be a good reserve linebacker with possible starting potential, and he'll help right away on special teams.

SFI: Second-rounder Chilo Rachal looks like a guy with a lot of potential. What kind of impact do you think he can make as a rookie?
RL:
I think he will challenge for a starting job as a rookie. I don't know if he'll win that job, but he'll definitely be a starter by his second season. He's an athletic kid who knows how to pass block and can deal with stunts and twists. He's a very good, competitive run blocker. He has experience at the highest level of the college game at USC and he certainly wasn't the weak link on their line - in fact, he was one of the strongest points of that great college offensive line. He's a good football player with the best yet to come. He's probably going to be motivated because of the circumstances of him coming out early. I wouldn't be shocked if he is one of the more competitive guys on their line and because of that, ends up starting as a rookie. He has a very good chance to be a very good starting guard in the NFL.

SFI: Is he someone that should have remained in college for his senior season? What do you think of his decision to come out as a junior?
RL:
Could every player benefit by playing another year in college? Yes. But from a family and financial standpoint, it makes sense for this kid. In his situation, with an (ailing) mother, I think he had to come out and he made the right decision in the long term to help his family and help his mother. For him, it's a home run. He had to come out.

SFI: Third-rounder Reggie Smith looks like an intriguing prospect. Can he make it as a corner in the NFL, or do you see him ultimately moving to safety?
RL:
I think he can make it as cornerback, but it depends on what you ask your cornerbacks to do. If you ask him to constantly cover deep in man-to-man coverage, that probably won't work with him. If you're going to play physical coverage and mostly off coverage and keep the ball in front of him in coverage and give him help deep, he's going to be a stud. Besides elite speed, he has everything you want at corner. I think he would do better than most corners early on because he is so instinctive.

SFI: It was essential for the 49ers to bolster their offensive line depth in this draft. Do Rachal and Wallace fill the bill in that regard?
RL:
I think no question. You can look at it and say one of those guys can start as a rookie - especially Rachal - and both can end up being starters. Rachal will definitely be in the mix for a starting job and Cody Wallace, he'll be a starting candidate down the line. I think they definitely did a good job bolstering their offensive line considering they only had six picks.

SFI: Do any of the 49ers' selections qualify as a steal in your estimation?
RL:
I think Reggie Smith is probably the biggest one. They got a guy in the third round that a lot of people thought was a first-round talent. He tumbled down because he didn't run a good time (in the 40-yard dash). A lot of people felt that there were a lot of cornerbacks that went ahead of him that he was better than.

SFI: You sound pretty positive about what the 49ers were able to do at the bottom of their draft. What do you see the team getting from sixth-rounder Josh Morgan and seventh-rounder Larry Grant?
RL:
Morgan has a good chance to make it. But I don't think he'll contribute as a rookie. It's going to be a learning curve for this kid, but he's a talented guy and he's not just a late-round, throwaway pick. He's got a chance but he has to really take the bull by the horns and learn the offense. Because Mike Martz has no patience for guys who struggle to pick up the offense. Initially, I think Grant's role is going to be as a backup linebacker and top special teams guy that they hope can add some weight and bulk up. If he can do that, I think he has a chance to develop into a starter down the road. He's a really good football player, especially chasing down plays in the run. He has explosiveness and a lot of things that can help him overcome his lack of size.

SFI: In the final analysis, what kind of contributions in general and particular do you expect this draft class to make for the 49ers?
RL:
When you look at every pick, five or six have a chance to be starters, and that's awfully good. That's a good job of doing your homework, getting guys that have a chance to be starters or at least good contributors on your team. In that regard, the 49ers did a hell of a job. I think you'll probably get two guys who could start (as rookies), Balmer and Rachal, because their offensive line and defensive line are desperate for starters. Factoring in Smith, I think two of those three will start and all three probably will play a role this year, although I still wonder if Balmer will ever become the player they think he should be at their No. 1 pick.


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